Employee story

Coral Gables native masters prioritization and problem-solving at Mixed-Use properties

General Manager Jennifer Villareal says JLL’s uniquely supportive culture puts her in a position to excel

November 10, 2023

For Jennifer Villareal, newly promoted General Manager of 396 Alhambra Circle in Coral Gables, Florida, there’s no such thing as a typical day. 

“I can walk into craziness,” such as when she came in to find vendors doing some not-quite-approved work on a tenant space, overseeing work order approvals, reassuring stressed tenants, and more, she said. 

Making sure that she’s on top of approving a tenant’s scope of work is just one aspect of Jennifer’s job, which also includes overseeing tenant improvement building projects, budgeting, establishing tenant relationships at the 281,617-square-foot, Class A office and retail building and strengthening bonds with her new, four-person staff. Building owner Agave Holdings tapped JLL to manage 396 Alhambra in March; JLL already managed Agave’s nearby mixed-use complex The Plaza Coral Gables, where Jennifer had been the Assistant General Manager. 

“My team is my priority, making sure that they know that and are valued,” Jennifer noted. “I’m getting to know the building, learning more about the tenants and meeting the vendors. And we’re still doing transition calls and making sure all of the data has been transferred as JLL has taken on the building.”

This new challenge is the result of a solidly advancing career path for Jennifer, who once aspired to becoming a lawyer. That path shifted when she became a young mom, and a friend who was leaving a job in facilities for JLL told her about the opening.

Join our Talent Network

Let's stay connected. Our Talent Network is the ideal place to enhance your job search, speed up the application process or simply learn more about life at JLL.

“The position offered a lot of flexibility for a single mom,” Jennifer recalled. “So, I started at JLL as a facilities coordinator. The client was Yahoo and I loved it. I made lifelong friends that I still keep in contact with today.”

In time, Yahoo chose to leave the JLL building. Reluctant to leave Coral Gables where she has strong family ties, Jennifer asked the manager of Yahoo’s location if they were hiring and was told that the building across the street was looking for an assistant property manager. 

“The rest is history,” she said. 

She became an Assistant Property Manager in 2018 and by 2020 was overseeing two Class A buildings and two industrial buildings. It was a big shift from the flexibility she knew as a facilities coordinator.

“It’s challenging. You’re always busy, and then there’s budget season,” Jennifer said. “Fortunately, I have a good support system at home. My mom is amazing, a hardworking woman who has overcome adversity herself. It was a change, but I was able to get through it. They say it takes a village, and I have a great one.”

As a result of buildings changing ownership and management, Jennifer worked with a couple of other management companies along the way. When a recruiter reached out, she came “home” to JLL in 2022 to serve as Assistant General Manager at the Plaza Coral Gables. But the time away offered valuable insight. Managing a mixed-use complex that was under construction was comparable to a game of Tetris, she recalled, entailing learning multiple processes and software, and dealing with varying tenant schedules — most retailers tend to have longer operating hours than office users, and therefore greater responsibilities. The Plaza’s mix also posed additional management challenges, Jennifer explained. 

“All of the tenants are first generation and there was a lot of construction,” she said. “You learn how to prioritize, delegate tasks, and problem-solve on the fly in real time.”

That experience has helped her transition to 396 Alhambra Circle, even though it is fully stabilized. Currently, Jennifer is overseeing the International Federation of Association Football (FIFA) moving into three full floors formerly occupied by HBO, as it prepares for the Miami World Cup in 2026.

“My experience at The Plaza translates to having patience with tenants and knowing what issues I could bend on and what issues I must be firm on. Ultimately, I of course have to stick to the lease, but if I can make them happy within reason, I try to work with them,” she said. “Seeing two major retail tenants through construction to fully opened gave me insight on different issues or requests the tenants may face. So, when I got here, I came with confidence in my ability to manage and collaborate with the retail tenants, while also keeping ownership happy.”

It’s also helped her appreciate JLL’s uniquely supportive corporate culture even more. She cited her current boss, Stewart Brown, Vice President and Group Manager, as a strong mentor, who has “put me in a position to excel.

“I’ve learned so much from him in such a short amount of time,” she said. Not a micromanager, “he leaves me to do the work, but gives me guidance. It’s been a career-changer.”

Outside of work, Jennifer and her 16-year-old son Noah are both active in their church and in her rare spare moments, she likes to relax with the occasional novel, all of which make her a better mom and manager. 

“Honestly,” she said, “I wouldn’t be here without my faith, God’s guidance and my answered prayers.”

Interested in learning how JLL can help you achieve your career ambitions?